My kids and I have been discussing the resolutions we want to make. I think goals are a good idea. I think that reviewing where you are and thinking about ways you’d like to change or improve can only be a good thing. We take the whole first week of the New Year to think about it since being on time or being prepared has never been a resolution.
So my Sam says, “I want a revolution too.”
“That’s ‘resolution’ little guy, but I like your spirit.”
“I want my revolution to be eating more dessert and less school. I like school, but I don’t want to go to school.”
Which makes perfect sense to me. For my part I’m going to try embracing holidays. I really do hate them. The older I get, the more cynical I become, every single holiday feels like an orchestrated event to get us to spend money and buy advertising space and humiliate ourselves trying to sing unsingable songs. And with small children, the holidays cannot be dodged. The decorating, the obligatory gift giving and card sending . . . it all makes me crazy. Crazy with exhaustion and that feeling that I’ll never get a grip on it. I’m always behind.
So this year, I’m getting in front of the holidays. Every month there is some opportunity, and we are going to celebrate. We are going to celebrate every damn holiday if it kills me. We are going to have fun dammit. That means decorating, a small gift exchange, food and some social activity for the whole family. I will even hang the appropriate flag outside our front door as evidence of my holiday spirit. Ugh.
Which brings me to the first holiday. Martin Luther King Day. What on earth does one do for this holiday? I’m being challenged right out of the gate. How do you decorate to integrate? Is there equality food? What does a freedom gift exchange look like? All I can think of is that we each take a portion of King’s great speeches and read them aloud. And while that might sound educational and beautiful, come on, it’s lame! My resolve is being tested only two weeks into the New Year.
I won’t be tripped up though. I’ve got the glow of a New Year’s Resolution all over me and I will not fail. I’ll probably lose that last ten pounds by then too. Who am I kidding?
This Christmas I decided to give my children my office. I’m completely redecorating with desks and bookshelves, lots of space for school projects and floor to ceiling whiteboards. It’s costing more money than I have , but it really has to be done. My kids are struggling at school.
I openly stressed about the money and the transition to my mother over the holidays. She completely missed my bigger issues which makes sense because she is a woman of another generation. My open stressing rendered no support, instead some small condemnation.
My mother suggested I was redecorating because I like to do that sort of thing. She suggested that I not make financial expenditures which could deprive my children. This was merely a luxury I should forego.
She was missing big points and I couldn’t convince her otherwise. She was a stay at home mom most of her life. She married my dad when she was 21 and raising children was all she ever knew.
My kids have me for only a couple of hours every night – for homework, dinner, chat and cuddling. They are now at an age where they need space to open books and make projects. The three of them share a single, small bedroom. They need my office space more than I do. My single, imposing desk which accommodates one will not help the four of us muddle through the three Rs. No question: they need a functioning room and the expense is just one of those things I’m going to have to shoulder.
But the bigger heartache in all this is losing my office. I had an occupation and a profession which gave me satisfaction and independence. I had barely begun marketing myself and enjoying the thrill that comes with building a business. I’m turning my back on that, giving it away to the three people I love the most who depend on me for everything. . . and it hurts. It hurts to realize I’m not that zippy independent professional I once thought I could be. Calling the shots from my seat of power, making things happen and influencing the world. I’m simply not important in that way and handing off my office seals that fate and acknowledges my own impotence in the adult world of movers and shakers. It’s really quite sad. I could feel like a failure except that I see this step as one toward creating success in other areas, other more important areas, like the development of children.
This really is their time. I suspect my time is over, my arc has ended. Whatever chances I had to “be something” have now dissolved except in ways that pertain to or at least include consideration of the kids. I’m really ok with that. It’s an adjustment period certainly, but I feel triumphant in that it was a hard decision. . . and I only hesitated about two days to make it.
I am irked by the holidays. I’d go so far as to say I hate Christmas, but I think God would be angry and I can’t have that.
I have a fake Christmas tree on my front porch. It’s a hand me down from my mother. I already had very nice compact tree for the inside of the house so this big tall one got relegated to outdoor decoration. And amazingly, it gets lots of compliments from the neighbors who enjoy seeing a big 10’ Christmas tree all lit with multicolored lights and metallic bows. Now, not only because of the God thing but also because the neighbors expect it, I have to put that frickin’ tree up every year. I go to war with this tree every December.
I got new lights this year. I thought I would do something nice for it and it might return the favor. About 2000 tiny jewel colored flickering lights in the night. At least for a few hours and then they sputter out. I’ve change the fuses now three times. I’ve changed the way they link together so that they don’t. Each strand has its own independent extension cord. Wires flow from under the tree skirt. Very high tech. I fear I can only keep the lights on for about four hours at a time and then they blow out. I’m so irritated with the outdoor tree I could cry. I don’t even move the ladder back to the garage any more. It’s on standby.
The indoor tree has proved just as uncooperative this year. It’s a conspiracy of ornamentation. It’s a prelit tree which came with now lost guarantees. I stacked it up and plugged it in and several of the strands don’t work this year. So off to Target for replacement lights. A couple hours later and it’s up and down the ladder filling the voids.
My faith in the indoor tree is lost so I won’t decorate it. It’s a naked tree. As soon as I hang something on it, I know a strand will go out and I won’t be able to do anything if balls are on it.
The last few days I walk into the living room, glare at the tree and challenge it to screw me over. Then I hold my breath and plug it in. Whatever relief I may experience when the lights turn on is short-lived as I realize I need to walk to the porch and have a show down with Tree Number Two.
Considering my investment of time, these trees are staying up until Valentine’s Day.
At our slumber party last weekend one of the boys came to me at 1:30am and said he was sick. He was crying, and I was quick to dismiss it as homesick or fear of a dark, strange house. I really did not want to call his parents in the middle of the night. They had a kid-free evening and were probably swinging from the chandeliers or playing naked Twister. Of course, if they were anything like me, they may have been so excited to be allowed their exhaustion, they smiled at each other before the sun set and fell asleep.
Naturally, the boy had a temp and was mortified that he might throw up in front of all his friends. We made the call. No answer. Visions of two middle-aged people bitterly wiping off whipped cream, cursing the whole time, danced through my head.
It took about twenty minutes for one of them to pick up the phone. The boy spoke to his mom. He was really crying hard. Still, just like me, he had to sell her on the idea that he was sick. About forty minutes later, his dad shows up at our house. You could tell by the way he slammed the car door he was not happy. But I opened the front door and his sick little cherub limped out, now hysterical upon seeing his father, and dad’s angry melted. It was heartbreaking.
I promised right then I would never doubt my kids when they called at an inconvenient time to tell me they needed me. Naked Twister be damned!
My oath lasted all of four days. My oldest called from school. He thought he broke his thumb and wanted me to take him to the hospital. If this was true, I reasoned, the school would have called an ambulance. I told my darling, brave, crying child that unless there was blood or bone I wasn’t leaving the office. I wasn’t even torn; there was no way I was leaving work.
Like most parents, I live for my children. Unless, of course, it’s inconvenient.
My son turns twelve today. As I type have ten boys running unrestrained and untethered in my house, junked up on caffeine, chocolate and the adrenaline of a post-Nerf war victory. I’d be lying if I said there was anything unusual about that. My three boys all by themselves can create quite a lot of noise and mayhem.
It is time for reflection. Twelve years. What the hell? I’ve never had anything for twelve years. Not a plant, a dog, even my husband, one could argue, punched out long before we got to twelve years. Of all things I might imagine myelf to have for twelve years – a car for instance, maybe a mattress – I would never have imagined a human being. And my son seems happy to have me. Of course I gave him a PS3 with ensures (and insures!) his devotion so I can’t be sure how sincere his undying affection is, but I really don’t care. I have it.
So tonight, I’ll listen to him and his friends scream like girls, echoing down the streets of the neighborhood. In a year or two they won’t sound like little girls any more so I’m going to enjoy this before they get neck deep in testosterone. They are a great group of boys. I’m not concerned about a single one of them. We’re really fortunate. I have a beautiful boy who made me a grateful mom. I love him in ways that can’t be expressed.
A year or two ago, I was really worried about his life and how it might turn out. Not any more. I’ve got it covered. And for those times when I’m not there, his trusted friends and their families will be. All things considered, it’s good to turn twelve.
Maybe two years ago my clothes dryer died. At first I was broke and couldn’t afford to get it fixed. Now, I’m just obstinate. I could get it fixed, but I rebel against the plumbers that charge a $90 house call fee. They tell you what’s wrong and how much it will cost. They then apply the house call fee to the cost of repair. It guarantees that there is no problem which is going to be less than $90. What if it’s a loose wire or it can’t be fixed at all? Really? $90? I also discovered that my electric bill went down $20 when I quit drying in the house.
Do the math: I do two loads of drying a week. That’s eight a month. Eight loads for $20 in electricity and who knows in water and gas. So let’s say clothes drying costs me $25 a month at home. A fabulous local laundromat charges thirty cents for 10 minutes of drying in a double load dryer. So I can dry all my clothes in one load for 30 minutes. That’s $1 a week or $4 a month. So I save $21 dollars a month by going to the laundromat. Plus the freakin’ $90 for the house call.
And I have fallen in love with it. Every Sunday at 4pm I pack up the kids and we drive a few blocks to the Clean Scene. There’s a pizza place next door that sells $6 cheese pizza. We go, we start the load, we walk next door and order pizza. Ten minutes later either Steve or Mario will deliver it to us at the laundromat. The manager of the laundromat – Andrew – is a really nice young man. He is the middle of three boys so when my three little guys come in, I think he looks at me like an echo of his own mother. There is a big screen tv and he’ll usually change it to the Simpson’s or some other kid friendly kind of thing when we get there. I always offer him pizza and he always very politely declines.
There are lots of regulars and I’ll talk about them another time. I find it mesmerizing being a part of this community. It’s an intimate thing: washing your clothes. It reveals so much about you: what you think about material possessions, how you care for them, personal taste, the types of people in your family, what size bed you have, the level of clean freak that you are. The relationships are amazing. Who do you bring to the laundromat? Why? There’s a woman that brings her grandmother who is in a wheelchair. I imagine for the same reason I bring my three kids: she won’t leave her alone and doesn’t want to get a sitter. But maybe I’m totally wrong. Maybe Grandma just loves it the way I do. You can’t make any assumptions about the people in a laundromat.
It took a while for us to become regulars, but we are, and it’s some kind of weird wonderful. I wouldn’t give it up. For one hour on Sundays my kids and I are part of this tenuous, ethereal thing. It’s a microcommunity. We come together for such a short time then fall away. Then back again.
Kind of like a tide – or maybe I should say Tide.